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'Van Gaal's wife wanted him to take the Sunderland job'

Niall Quinn recalls the time when he tried to lure the new United boss to the Stadium of Light.

New United coach Van Gaal turned down the opportunity to become Sunderland coach in 2011.
New United coach Van Gaal turned down the opportunity to become Sunderland coach in 2011.
Image: Martin Rickett

FORMER SUNDERLAND CHAIRMAN Niall Quinn says the Black Cats tried to persuade Louis van Gaal to come on board as manager in 2011.

Quinn, who also featured as a substitute in the Ireland team that famously beat Van Gaal’s Holland side 1-0 in 2001, said he knew that the prospect of the legendary coach taking over at the Stadium of Light was a “long shot”.

However, there was one influential presence in Van Gaal’s life who was keen on the move to Wearside — his wife.

“I gave him a cheeky call between Ricky Sbragia leaving and the appointment of Steve Bruce,” he said. “He was on a sabbatical from the game and his wife encouraged me to keep ringing him, so I did that. I think the wife was on my side because he was at home a lot,” he laughs.

“It was a brave call for us to make to try and lure somebody like that, but the owner Ellis Short would have backed it, he was 100% behind it. It was a long shot but he was very professional on the phone, he was very courteous and spoke in depth about the club and wanted to know its history. He saw the crowds that were attracted and knew there was something there and gave it the maximum respect in the period of time that I spoke to him, which was over about two or three phone calls, but a massive club came along at the time and blew us out of the water.”

“It was a good experience, and we also spoke to Felix Magath, who I found to be very professional. It was a great experience for me to speak to two people like that in that period of my development. It kind of says it all that I remember every word of those phone calls and Louis van Gaal probably won’t even remember one word of it.”

The Sky Sports pundit also backed the coach to be a success at United, emphasising his tendency to have a long-term vision for any team he takes over.

“You just felt you were speaking to somebody brilliant. The way he spoke about his development and football clubs and the way he sees his job… A lot of people think ‘I better get my results right or I’m out of here,’ but he goes in on the basis that he structures a club the Louis van Gaal way. I’m sure with Holland, he’ll leave behind an awful lot more than was there when he went in.

“With regards Man United, he’s already mentioned words like recreating history and creating new history. This will be about getting the whole structures back in place, where they fear Manchester United’s youth team and their reserve team. He’ll be hoping to rebuild. It won’t just be a quick fix and I think it’s brilliant that the Premier League will have somebody of his stature.”

Niall will be commentating for Sky Sports on the Ireland v Turkey friendly match from the Aviva Stadium this Sunday from 6pm.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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